Saturday, February 28, 2015
So many blessings have been given to us
During the first distribution of light, that we are
Admired in a thousand galaxies for our grief.
Don't expect us to appreciate creation or to
Avoid mistakes. Each of us is a latecomer
To the earth, picking up wood for the fire.
Every night another beam of light slips out
From the oyster's closed eye. So don't give up hope
that the door of mercy may still be open.
Seth and Shem, tell me, are you still grieving
Over the spark of light that descended with no
Defender near into the Egypt of Mary's womb?
It's hard to grasp how much generosity
Is involved in letting us go on breathing,
When we contribute nothing valuable but our grief.
Each of us deserves to be forgiven, if only for
Our persistence in keeping our small boat afloat
When so many have gone down in the storm.
~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the Ear of a Donkey
art by Klimt
Forgiveness is one of the really difficult things in life. The logic of receiving hurt seems to run in the direction of never forgetting either the hurt or the hurter. When you forgive, some deeper, divine generosity takes you over. When you can forgive, then you are free. When you cannot forgive, you are a prisoner of the hurt done to you. If you are really disappointed in someone and you become embittered, you become incarcerated inside that feeling. Only the the grace of forgiveness can break the straight logic of hurt and embitterment. It gives you a way out, because it places the conflict on a completely different level. In a strange way, it keeps the whole conflict human. You begin to see and understand the conditions, circumstances, or weakness that made the other person act as she did.
Why are we so reluctant to leave our inner prisons? There is the security of the confinement and limitation that we know. We are often willing to endure the searing sense of forsakenness and distance which limitation brings rather than risking the step out into the field of the unknown.
~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes
Friday, February 27, 2015
The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces
are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure.
Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark.
Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time.
Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything;
the struggle for identity and impression falls away.
We rest in the night.
~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara
Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to their bed. Procrustes, whose name means "he who stretches."
He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night's rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn't volunteer was the method by which this "one-size-fits-all" was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed.
We are no sooner out of the womb than we must begin this precarious unfolding and shaping of who we are. If we have bad or destructive times in childhood, we begin to fix on a survival identity to cover over and to compensate for what happens to us. If we are never encouraged to be ourselves we begin to construct an identity that will gain us either attention or approval. When we set out to construct our lives according to a fixed image, we damage ourselves. The image becomes the desperate focus of all our longing. There are no frames for the soul. In truth, we are called, in so far as we can, to live without an image of ourselves, or at least to keep images we have free and open. When you sense the immensity of the unknown within you, any image you have built of yourself gradually loses its promise. Your name, your face, your address only suggest the threshold of your identity. Somehow you are always secretly aware of this. Sometimes. you find yourself listening to someone telling you what you should do or describing what is going on inside you, and you whisper to yourself that they have not the foggiest idea who you actually are.
~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes
HeavenRoot was wandering at BrightAbundance Mountain...
he met Human NoName and said:
"Might I ask about bringing order to all beneath heaven?"
"Get lost!" shouted NoName. "What a slob.
How could you ask such trashy questions?
I wander the Maker-of-Things and just now stumbled into this human form.
When I get tired of this, I'll mount the SubtleConfusion Bird and soar out beyond the six horizons.
I'll wander in a village where there's nothing at all,
dwell in a land where emptiness stretches away forever.
So why are you cluttering my mind with your talk about governing all beneath heaven?"
HeavenRoot asked again.
"Let your mind wander the pure and simple," replied NoName.
"Blend your ch'i into the boundless, follow occurrence appearing of itself in things,
and don't let selfhood get in the way.
Then all beneath heaven will be governed as well."
~ Chuang Tzu
from Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters
translation by David Hinton
with thanks to http://fivebranchtree.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.
Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.
The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.
I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.
~ Octavio Paz
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Ch'ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.
His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.
No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.
So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
"For" and "against" are forgotten.
No drives no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.
Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.
~ Chuang Tzu
(In the Dark Before Dawn)
Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,
nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.
They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.
And in my streets—the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,
and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.
There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.
There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.
A few escape. A mercy.
They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.
~ Jane Hirshfield
Jane was born on this day in New York City (1953). She went to Princeton, where she was in the first graduating class to include women in 1973. She published her first poem not long after, then went off to northern California to study Buddhism for the next eight years, during which time she didn't write at all. She said: " I don't think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn't just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.
comments from Writers Almanac
comments from Writers Almanac
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
We walk through half our life
as if it were a fever dream
barely touching the ground
our eyes half open
our heart half closed.
Not half knowing who we are
we watch the ghost of us drift
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.
Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking some true self.
Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love.
- Stephen Levine
from Breaking the Drought
with thanks to whisky river
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Buddha took some Autumn leaves
In his hand and asked
Ananda if these were all
The red leaves there were.
Ananda answered that it
Was Autumn and leaves
Were falling all about them,
More than could ever
Be numbered. So Buddha said,
"I have given you
A handful of truths. Besides
These there are many
Thousands of other truths, more
Than can ever be numbered.
~ Kenneth Rexroth
photo by Eliot Porter
Sunday, February 15, 2015
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
~ Mary Oliver
with thanks to Transit Notes
~ Mary Oliver
with thanks to Transit Notes
Nobody told us that what we are is a point of awareness, or pure spirit.
This isn't something we're taught. Rather,
what we were taught was to identify with our name.
We were taught to identify with our birth date.
We were taught to identify with the next thought that we have.
We were taught to identify with all the memories
our mind collects about the past.
But all that was just teaching: all that was just more thinking.
When you stand in your own authority,
based in your own direct experience,
you meet that ultimate mystery that you are.
Even though it may be at first unsettling
to look into your own no-thingness, you do it anyway. Why?
Because you no longer want to suffer.
Because you're willing to be disturbed.
You're willing to be amazed.
You're willing to be surprised.
You're willing to realize that maybe everything
you've ever thought about yourself really isn't true.
with thanks to whiskey river
Each day I long so much to see
The true teacher. And each time
At dusk when I open the cabin
Door and empty the teapot,
I think I know where he is:
West of us in the forest.
Or perhaps I am the one
Who is out in the night,
The forest sand wet under
My feet, moonlight shining
On the sides of the birch trees,
The sea far off gleaming.
And he is the one who is
At home. He sits in my chair
Calmly; he reads and prays
All night. He loves to feel
His own body around him;
He does not leave the house.
Robert Bly translation
photo Harlan Hubbard in his studio
with thanks to peacefullpresence.blogspot.com
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
When the path ignites a soul,
there's no remaining in place.
The foot touches ground,
but not for long.
The way where love tells its secret
stays always in motion,
and there is no you there, and no reason.
The rider urges his horse to gallop,
and so doing, throws himself
under the flying hooves.
In love-unity there's no old or new.
Everything is nothing.
God alone is.
For lovers the phenomena-veil is very transparent,
and the delicate tracings on it cannot
be explained with language.
Clouds burn off as the sun rises,
and the love-world floods with light.
But cloud-water can be obscuring,
as well as useful.
There is an affection that covers the glory,
rather than dissolving into it.
It's a subtle difference,
like the change in Persian
from the word "friendship"
to the word "work."
That happens with just a dot
above or below the third letter.
There is a seeing of the beauty
of union that doesn't actively work
for the inner conversation.
Your hand and feet must move,
as a stream streams, working
as its Self, to get to the ocean.
Then there's no more mention
of the search.
Being famous, or being a disgrace,
who's ahead or behind, these considerations
are rocks and clogged places
that slow you. Be as naked as a wheat grain
out of its husk and sleek as Adam.
Don't ask for anything other
than the presence.
Don't speak of a "you"
apart from That.
A full container cannot be more full.
Be whole, and nothing.
~ Hakim Sanai
version by Coleman Barks
from The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia,
with Lectures by Inayat Khan
with thanks to Ivan at Poetry Chaikhana
who also provided the following:
Not much is known about Hakim Sanai, often just called Sanai or Sanai of Ghazna. Sanai is one of the earlier Sufi poets. He was born in the province of Ghazna in southern Afghanistan in the middle of the 11th century and probably died around 1150.
Sanai was originally a court poet who was engaged in writing praises for the Sultan of Ghazna.
The Sultan decided to invade neighboring India and Sanai, as a court poet, was summoned to join the expedition to record the Sultan's exploits. As Sanai was making his way to the court, he passed an enclosed garden frequented by a notorious drunk named Lai Khur.
As Sanai was passing by, he heard Lai Khur loudly proclaim a toast to the blindness of the Sultan for greedily choosing to invade another country, when there was so much beauty in Ghazna. Sanai was shocked and stopped. Lai Khur then proposed a toast to the blindness of the famous young poet Sanai who, with his gifts of insight and expression, couldn't see the pointlessness of his existence as a poet praising such a foolish Sultan.
These words were like an earthquake to Hakim Sanai, because he knew they were true. He abandoned his life as a pampered court poet, even declining marriage to the Sultan's own sister, and began to study with a Sufi master named Yusef Hamdani.
Sanai soon went on pilgrimage to Mecca. When he returned, he composed his poetic masterpiece, The Walled Garden of Truth. There was a double meaning in this title for, in Persian, the word for a garden is the same as the word for paradise, but it was also from within a walled garden that Lai Khur uttered the harsh truths that set Hakim Sanai on the path of wisdom.